VISIT MY NEW WEBSITE, THE CREATIVE CRONE

Welcome, and thanks for visiting. I have a new website, and I’ve moved all my activity there. I’m now at: http://www.creativecrone.net.

You’ll find all these blog posts at the new site, plus lots of new content, including my latest news and announcements of my upcoming workshops and appearances. When you visit, please subscribe so that you won’t miss any updates. Thanks!

You can also reach me by email at julielomoe@gmail.com or friend me on Facebook. Let’s keep in touch!

Cordially,

Julie Lomoe

Julie at FUUSA crfts fair 12-4-16

 

 

ww

Haiku observations while walking my dog

Sirius with bouquet 4-9-17Walking my dog Sirius this morning, I noticed the thousands of pink petals carpeting the black asphalt roadside. A strong wind had whipped through overnight, and I realized it had stripped most of the petals from my neighbor’s crab apple tree, robbing it of much of its spring magnificence. The sight reminded me of cherry blossoms, which in turn reminded me of Japanese haiku. As we walked, I began composing haiku in my head, and when we returned, after breakfast I repaired upstairs to my office and captured my observations.

Warm spring southwest wind

Whips across my morning face

Clouds scud across sun

Pepto Bismol pink

Petals from the crab apple

Carpet the gutter

Six Chihuahuas strain

Against their slender leashes

My chow wags, confused

Should he take them on

Or sniff their tiny butts instead?

Better not find out

Roughly twenty feet

Between us, we owners chat

About our babies

The beige Chihuahua’s

Mother to all the brown ones,

She tells me proudly

Moving on, my dog

Pauses to poop. I bag it

In thin pink plastic

Next we happen on

A neighbor pruning fruit trees

On his lakeside lawn

Over the winter,Snyders Lake arborvitae pruned by deer Feb 2017

Hungry deer stripped the foliage

Of his arborvitae

Clear up to five feet.

Scraggly twigs are all that’s left

Beneath the crowning balls

He’s fatalistic,

Says he’ll wrap them in black plastic

Fencing. They’ll grow back.

On our way back home,

We greet a mother cradling

George, her toddler son

Sirius sniffs his feetTiki with neighborhood kids 4-24-17

And wags. The little boy smiles

My dog and I trudge uphill

Toward home, greet Tiki,

The gray retired racehorse

Across the street.

Tossing the poop bag

Into the black garbage bin,

I count my blessings.

Living in upstate New York is definitely high on my list of blessings. Arguably we enjoy the best climate in the continental United States—if you enjoy experiencing all four seasons, that is. It can be wildly unpredictable, and we’re experiencing an unsettling warming trend due to climate change. But by and large, we’re spared the severe droughts, the tornadoes, the floods that plague other regions of the country. This morning on Facebook my neighbor Wendy, owner of Tiki, the horse in my poem, posted a photo of an enormous pine tree that crashed in her back yard during last night’s windstorm, but fortunately it missed her house. My heart goes out to those affected by devastating weather elsewhere. As for me, I’m not planning on moving any time soon.

The haiku form of poetry is a wonderful way of capturing your observations on the fly. For a time, as a spiritual practice, I wrote a haiku every morning after walking Sirius, and I highly recommend it as a way of centering yourself and counting your blessings. A single haiku consists of just three lines. In the classic form, the first line contains five syllables, the second contains seven syllables, and the third contains five. But it’s okay to cut yourself a little slack, as I’ve done here—there are different schools of thought on the subject.

Why not leave me a haiku in the comment section? Or not—it’s up to you. But in any case, please leave me a comment, and subscribe to my blog so as not to miss anything.

POSTSCRIPT: As I format this post prior to publication, WordPress keeps screwing around with the spacing and deleting the spaces between the three-line stanzas. I’ve tried fixing it several times to no avail, and it’s bringing me uptight, so I guess I’ll leave it. Good practice for you, the reader, in counting the syllables for yourself. In any case, it’s time to watch the Kentucky Derby now!

Online Jigsaws: A poem about my latest addiction

Jigsaw online GoogleOver the past couple of months, I’ve developed a fiendish new addiction: online jigsaw puzzles. I’ve got a lot to say about it, but for now, I’m publishing this poem I wrote a couple of weeks ago. It went over well with my women writers’ group and at Poets Speak Loud at McGeary’s in Albany. I hope you enjoy it too. Please leave comments so I know you’re out there! And please subscribe so you don’t miss my next post.

Online Jigsaws

I

Instant jigsaw puzzles in the thousands

Only a mouse click away,

My latest online addiction.

I stumbled onto Jigsaw Planet unawares

At the tail end of a soap opera website

Detailing the latest travails

On General Hospital.

There it was, a photo of my favorite actor,

Michael Easton as Finn shooting up 4-8-16

Michael Easton as Hannibal Finn

The erstwhile vampire Michael Easton,

With his newest leading lady.

One click, and those gorgeous faces

Shattered into loopy fragments.

A few more mouse clicks,

And the lovers were reunited, whole again.

Little did I dream that single puzzle

Would tumble me into an abyss of endless jigsaws,

A time-warped universe destined to suck me in

And drain me of the precious hours

I’d promised to woo my elusive muse.

On Jigsaw Planet, I set up my own account,

Christened myself Jazzy Julie,

Created puzzles cribbed from photos of my life.

Posted them to the site. No one came at first,

But now I’ve got followers.

I follow others in return, anonymous online friends

Who while away the hours shattering wholeness into shards,

Then painfully piecing pictures back together.

Speed is of the essence. Once the timer starts,

The seconds and minutes flash onscreen

Below the puzzle, but peeking wastes precious time.

Instead I focus on the pieces,

Drag them into place.

If it’s a fit, they snap together with a delightful click.

The sound’s a giveaway,

So I keep it low and stealthy,

In hopes my spouse won’t hear.

When the final piece finds its perfect union,

There’s a climactic chime.

Only then do I check my time,

See how high I’ve scored.

With every game, every day I play,

I’m getting steadily better.

Despite the tremors in my aging fingers,

Even when thousands have played the game,

I’m in the top five percent, sometimes even first.

My adrenaline crests, creating a heady cocktail,

Merging with dopamine and serotonin

Flooding my body with bliss.

Awash in satisfaction, I contemplate my achievement

But the pleasure ebbs away too soon.

Just one more puzzle, I tell myself. My muse can wait.

Mired in shame and guilt, I peruse my choices. What will it be?

The Grand Canal in Venice? An array of wines and cheeses?

A litter of golden retriever puppies?

Thousands of options, with new ones every day,

Free of charge, but stealing minutes and hours

From my few remaining years.

II

I’ve always been good at jigsaws, but they bored me

Till Springbok Puzzles came upon the scene in 1963.

Their artsy designs and odd-ball contours captured my fancy.

First came a Jackson Pollock painting.

Untangling its spider webs of hurled and dribbled paint,

I wowed my fiancé and his mother at weekly Sunday dinners

On the upper East Side, refusing to cheat by peeking

At the cover photo. That marriage didn’t survive the Sixties,

And that husband’s now deceased.

A few years later, alone in my Broome Street loft,

I worked my Springbok puzzles

To wind down after days of painting, on nights

When there were no parties to crash. Too hip for TV,

I listened to FM rock. In 1968, I was tripping out

On a psychedelic puzzle designed by Peter Max

When the announcer cut in to announce

That Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated.

Fast forward eighteen years, to 1986.

Married once more, a mother,

I’d traded the SoHo loft for a house on sixteen acres,

With a creek that flooded every spring.

Home alone in January, wasted by the flu,

Using a sick day I’d earned at the psychiatric center,

I was working a Springbok at the dining table,

One of the circular puzzles, though I don’t recall which one.

Perhaps the kittens, the pizza with all the toppings,

The antique map of the constellations—

I solved my favorites many times.

The TV was tuned to a shuttle launch.

In my shocking pink chenille bathrobe,

A gift from a discarded lover of years before,

I watched the Challenger explode on live TV,

The forking trajectory of the white smoke plumes

Arcing across the cobalt sky.

I abandoned jigsaws after that,

Sold my Springboks at a yard sale when we downsized.

Today I Googled the company.

Their jazzy website says they’re going strong,

Proudly made in America from 100% recycled materials.

But Hallmark bought them out years ago,

And now they’re heavy on nostalgia—

No more Peter Max or Jackson Pollock.

I could order them online, but I’m not tempted.

Why bother, when I can surf the web

And capture an infinity of puzzling images for free?

Besides, my cat can’t bat the pieces off the screen.lunesta-on-printer-7-27-14

The Creative Crone: My new book project

How do you like the new look of my blog? To celebrate the official beginning of my nonfiction book on creativity, I decided it was high time for a new visual theme, and this one is in perfect harmony with the coming of spring.

I’ve registered a new domain name, www.creativecrone.net, and I’m working on a new website to match. If you click on the link now, it will bring you to a basic site on GoDaddy, but that’s only temporary until I get one up and running on WordPress. How long that will take is anyone’s guess. I spent Saturday night exploring the intricacies of getting and linking new domains, including a prolonged online chat with one of the “happy helpers” at WordPress, and I’m still almost as confused as I was when I began. Nonetheless, I’m proud of myself—I didn’t freak out, and I didn’t call on my husband to help.

Talk about synchronicity—my husband just came back from a quick run to the supermarket, and he brought me a gorgeous bouquet of bright orange and magenta flowers. Daisies and carnations, in suspiciously brilliant shades that may have been enhanced with a bit of a dye job, but I love them. I stuck them in a red metal pitcher from Dansk, and for now I’m going to break off from blogging to go out and play in the garden. The sky is a cloudless blue, and the thermometer just hit 70—truly delightful after what seems like endless days of clouds and rain. My crocuses are in full bloom, and I want to photograph them, along with the bouquet from my significant other.

I’ll check back in soon. I’ve got lots more to write about, but I couldn’t resist sharing my blog’s new look. I’d love to hear what you think of it. Please leave comments, and subscribe so you won’t miss anything.

Celebrating World Bipolar Day and speaking truth to power

 

Van Gogh selfportrait-bandagedToday is World Bipolar Day, an initiative created by many international organizations and celebrated each year on March 30th, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh.* To commemorate the day, I’m reprinting the Afterword from the 2015 reissue of my mystery novel Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders. The novel was inspired by my outrageously discriminatory experience at a psychiatric social club in upstate New York where I worked around the turn of the millennium. All the characters in Mood Swing are entirely fictional, and I relocated the club from Troy to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Today, for the first time, I’m identifying the organization where I was fired for telling a client I was bipolar, but you’ll have to read through till the end of this post for the revelation.

When I first published Mood Swing, I concluded my afterword as follows:

Society’s intolerance and fear of people suffering from mental illness has scarcely evolved at all. Erika’s uneasiness about disclosing her bipolar disorder is all too realistic. If anything, people’s acceptance of her illness after she “comes out” is perhaps too idealized. There is still a powerful stigma surrounding mental illness. And although mentally ill people are much more likely to be victims than perpetrators of crime, all too often the media – in both fiction and non-fiction – portray them as crazed, violent criminals.

When I published a new edition in 2015, I added the following:

Afterword to the 2015 edition 

Julie moodswing_cover-hi-res-3-07Sadly, what I wrote above is all too true today, almost a decade later. The stigma about mental illness persists. What’s changed is my willingness to talk about it. As I noted above, this novel was inspired in part by my experiences working at a psychiatric social club in upstate New York. Like Erika, I disclosed my bipolar diagnosis – not on the evening news, but to a club member who shared the diagnosis, whom I thought might be helped by my willingness to share. She passed this juicy tidbit along to someone I supervised, who in turn passed it on to my boss at the agency.

When I got home that evening, there was a phone message instructing me to report to Human Resources the next morning. There, without warning, I was summarily fired. When I protested, I was told that my termination had nothing to do with my disclosure that I shared a diagnosis of mental illness with many of the club’s members. No, it was my overall performance they found inadequate, despite the fact that I’d worked there for nearly a year with no hints of dissatisfaction from the higher-ups.

I consulted lawyers, but they told me my case would be almost impossible to prove, and that Julie Moodswing Killion cover from Amazonthings could get nasty. So I nursed my wounds in secret, until the passage of time gave me the strength to turn my experiences into fiction. When I first published Mood Swing, I was still in the closet regarding my bipolar diagnosis, but gradually, at readings and signings, I began disclosing my story. Almost invariably, people would come up to me afterwards, saying “I’ve never told anyone this before,” then tell me that they or a close friend or relative were also diagnosed bipolar. Many bought the book in hopes of learning more about the illness, or helping a loved one understand. So now at last, I’m out and I’m proud, and I hope this book will help give others the confidence to go public too.

Not long after they fired me, the agency that ran that social club shut the place down. Clearly mental health wasn’t high on their list of priorities, but I wonder whether all those club members found another place to go. Prison, perhaps, since that’s where our country chooses to house countless thousands of the mentally ill these days. But that’s another story, for someone else to tell.

March 20, 2017

Today, for the first time, I’m revealing the identity of the agency that fired me: Unity House of Troy Inc. You can check them out at www.unityhouseny.org. Mental health is still near the top in their mission statement, and I don’t doubt they provide many worthwhile services, but I’ll never forgive them for the trauma they inflicted on me. It’s time to speak truth to power.

*from www.worldbipolarday.org:

World Bipolar Day (WBD) – an initiative of the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD), the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD) – will be celebrated each year on March 30th, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who was posthumously diagnosed as probably having bipolar disorder. 

The vision of WBD is to bring world awareness to bipolar disorders and to eliminate social stigma.  Through international collaboration, the goal of World Bipolar Day is to bring the world population information about bipolar disorders that will educate and improve sensitivity towards the illness.  

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.  Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe and different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time.  It is estimated that the global prevalence of bipolar disorder is between 1 and 2% and has been said to be as high as 5% and, according to the World Health Organization, is the 6th leading case of disability in the world.  In order to address this global problem, we need a global solution.  With support from leading experts from around the world, groups like ANBD, IBPF, and ISBD are supporting efforts to investigate biological causes, targets for drug treatment, better treatments, better methods of diagnosis, the genetic components of the illness, and the strategies for living well with bipolar disorder and this is just the beginning.  Collaborations between research and advocacy groups are continuing to grow, and WBD is a tribute to the success of this strategy.  

Thanks for reading, and as I write at book signings, many happy mood swings! Mood Swing and my other novels are available at Amazon on Kindle or in paperback, and you’ll help boost my mood enormously if you buy them!

Alison Armstrong and the Independent Creators Alliance FB group

alison-armstrong-with-michael-easton-roger-howarth-aug-2016

Roger Howarth, Alison Armstrong and Michael Easton last summer.

Alison Armstrong is a gifted author I met through online fan groups for Michael Easton, the General Hospital actor who inspired my vampire soap opera thriller Hope Dawns Eternal. Alison and I met in person at a GH fan event in New Jersey in 2014. This morning she’ll be meeting Michael and his GH buddy Roger Howarth at another event in New Jersey. Since I couldn’t afford the trip this time around, I sent Alison a copy of Hope Dawns Eternal in hopes that she can hand it to him directly, along with a letter and a couple of poems I hope he’ll enjoy.

Back on October 8, 2016, Alison and I both participated at an Indie Authors Day held at libraries nationwide. Soon after, at my request, she sent me the following post about the event:

Having attended an Indie Book Fair recently as an author, I learned some valuable information regarding marketing and distribution; however, the overall message of the advice left me feeling disheartened regarding the arbitrary standardization of the publishing industry and upset about the commoditization of the arts in general.  Instead of focusing on creativity and literary talent, the speakers at the book event emphasized orthodoxy in page design (justified text, avoidance of stylistic content-driven page and paragraph breaks, etc.) .

Although I support the importance of proper grammar and punctuation and feel that these aspects, along with originality in content, expression, and style, are essential in quality writing, I do not believe that standardization of font, margins, and other traditional publishing practices should be given such a high priority.  Nevertheless, despite the increasing numbers of indie authors, the publishing industry persists in perpetuating typographic conventions that are usually not used in Word or other common writing programs.  In so doing, the publishing industry imposes an arbitrary standard to differentiate between traditionally published and print-on-demand authors so that the “indie” writers may feel pressured into purchasing services to make their work appear more like traditional published materials, thereby making their work less independent, more restricted by financial concerns.   Along with the standardization of text format , book publishers seem to be promoting an increasingly conventional approach to cover design, resulting in a glut of covers featuring monotonously similar figurative clichés associated with the book’s genre,  such as the faceless torsos displayed like slabs of cosmetically enhanced meat on the covers of lurid romance novels.

The arts in general, especially in the United States, are generally viewed in a similar way as those hunky yet generic slabs of flesh, something to readily consume as entertainment or profit from.  Favoring the familiar, the already established, the tried and true moneymakers,  publishing companies, recording companies, and movie studios sign fewer new authors, musicians, and filmmakers.  The newbies and the “indies,” therefore, seek new ways of gaining exposure for their work.  However, as with the “indie” book fair example, even some resources and organizations presuming to work on behalf of the independent artists devalue certain aspects of individualistic expression.

Independent authors, musicians, artists and filmmakers represent a challenge to the financially-driven industries that struggle to maintain a monopoly on the arts by propagating lookalike, superficially pleasing but often substanceless clones. The literary renegades, such as William Burroughs and J. G. Ballard, the ravaged voices of Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith, these muses of rebellion and individuality epitomize the freedom, intensity, and expressive potential of the independent, creative spirit.  

Inspired by artists such as these, I have created the Independent Creators Alliance group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/269464480120915/ ). I invite creators in any of the arts to join in solidarity, supporting each other and the ideal of artistic freedom. I envision this group as a place to express our ideas regarding the arts and integrity to our vision while connecting with other creative people. It can be a place to network, brainstorm ideas, share sources of inspiration, and collaborate perhaps on projects. In these rather depressing times, we need the arts more than ever to heal the soul.

alison-armstrong-indie-book-fair-10-8-16

Alison Armstrong at Indie Book Fair last October.

Alison makes some provocative points that are deserving of further discussion. I’ve joined her Independent Creators Alliance group on Facebook, and I hope you will too. And by all means check out her books Revenance and Toxicosis, both available on Amazon. But don’t confuse her with the other Alison Armstrong, who writes books about how women can please and communicate better with men. That’s definitely the wrong Alison!

Donald, the cock of the walk: inside a twisted mind

Bashing Donald Trump is a popular pastime among the writers I know, especially the poets. Wondering what I could add to the flurry of fiery condemnations, I decided to try writing from the point of view of The Donald himself. As the author of mysteries and suspense novels, I love getting into the heads of my villains, including vampires and serial killers. But who knows what lurks deep in Donald’s twisted mind? What in his gene pool or his family history has made him the scary monster he is today? I have absolutely no idea, but here’s one possible take on the subject.

Donald the Bantam Rooster speaks his mind

It’s the Year of the Rooster—chinese-year-of-the-rooster

Melania just told me.

The Chinese New Year fell on January 28,

Just eight days after my coronation.

What’s that you say? Inauguration?

Big deal—what’s the difference?

Either way, I’m finally Emperor.

I’m cock of the walk—

I’ve got a lot to crow about.

This can’t be mere coincidence.

New Year, New America—

See, even the Chinese are bowing down to worship me.

They named the New Year after my sign.

Me, the Sun God. I like the sound of that.louis_xiv_of_france-by-rigaud

What’s that you say? Louis XIV used it first?

Wasn’t he the guy who built all those palaces

And filled them with gilded furniture?

I learned about him from Ivana

When we were furnishing Trump Tower

And Mar a Lago. Hey, that’s a good comparison,

Me and Louis, but my buildings are much bigger.

Besides, wasn’t he a scrawny little wimp?

I watched the Netflix series. Sad.

What’s that you say, Jared?

The Rooster’s not my sign? What is it then?

The Dog? You’re kidding, right?chinese-zodiac-dog-year-of-the-dog

Intelligent, honest, obedient, loyal?

No way! How dare the Chinese Zodiac slander me?

Maybe we should nuke them, whaddaya think?

Go ahead, make my day. Bomb them to oblivion.

No more “Made in China” clothes.

A trade bonanza!

What’s that you say? The Fire Dog,

Because of my Birth Year, 1946?

Same as Bill Clinton? Even worse.

That filthy horn dog, screwing all those

Tasty bitches while lying Hillary looks the other way.

Compared to mine, those bitches were skanky.

Remember Monica, that pathetic porker?

A five, and the others were eights or nines at most,

While mine are always tens.

Just look at my daughter Ivanka—donald-ivanka-trump

No, don’t, on second thought.

If Jared could read my mind, he’d kill me.

What’s that you say, Jared?

I’m only kidding. Can’t you take a joke?

What’s that you say?

The Year of the Rooster is especially bad luck

For those born in the Year of the Dog?  

What utter crap! I don’t believe a word you say.

The truth is always lies.

Matter of fact, you’re fired!

I wrote this poem three hours before last Monday’s Poets Speak Loud, the monthly open mic at McGeary’s Tavern in Albany. Thanks to Mary Panza, Dan Wilcox, and Thom Job of Albany Poets, who have kept this event going over the past ten years. The deadline is always a powerful incentive, especially since I know my work will be met with applause and (when appropriate) laughter.

The poem went over well, so I read it again last night at a private party for poets and their significant others. Once again it met with hilarity. Afterwards, people told me it was refreshing to hear something about Trump that was actually more funny than terrifying. One woman told me I’d be great on television. Hmmm…is YouTube in my future? Maybe, if it will help me sell more books.